The side event at the SPREP 31st Meeting on Tuesday.
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

07 September 2023, Apia Samoa – The pressing challenges faced by Pacific countries in managing environmental and social risks, especially in a time when climate change and other global issues are exacerbating these risks, have been spotlighted at the 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials, taking place in Samoa this week.
The challenges were highlighted during a side event hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Environmental Monitoring and Governance (EMG) Programme in the collaboration with the World Bank on Tuesday. 
The event focused on strengthening Environmental and Social Risk Management (ESRM) in the Pacific region, and featured a panel of speakers from the Cook Islands and Samoa. 
In attendance were representatives from Pacific Island nations, partners, and key regional stakeholders. The discussion highlighted the successful Pacific Leadership Program-Environmental and Social Sustainability (PLP-ESS). Signed in 2019 between the World Bank, SPREP, the Asian Development Bank and the University of the South Pacific (USP), the PLP-ESS bolstered the delivery of infrastructure projects in the Pacific region by ensuring the effective administration of environmental and social safeguards (ESS). 
Through the partnership which ran from 2019-2022, over 25 capacity building modules addressing various Environmental and Social Risk Management (ESRM) topics and challenges unique to the Pacific Island context were delivered to ESS practitioners across the region.
Building on this foundation, the World Bank announced a proposal to develop a new capacity-strengthening project aimed at scaling up the outcomes of the PLP-ESS initiative. The new project exemplifies the "natural evolution" of collaborative environmental stewardship in the region.
"ESRM is not just a policy but a commitment to our future generations," said Ms Rachelle Marbug, a senior representative from the World Bank. She emphasised the importance of partnerships.
"We have strong trust and ties with SPREP and other partners, and we're working closely to develop a new project that works at both the country and regional level."
Ms Marbug also announced that Samoa had made a "very strong commitment" and would be partnering with SPREP to continue training, mentoring, and regional-level work. "A lot of challenges that exist in Samoa or other countries are actually regional challenges," she added. "This is a brand-new approach within the World Bank, and we are excited to build on our knowledge and experience."
Mr Ross Butler, also a Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, echoed Marburg's sentiments on the power of partnerships. 
"We just didn't know how to do it, so that's why we focused on some partnerships," Mr Butler stated. He went on to explain that the Pacific Learning Partnership was a culmination of years of "listening, trust-building, and agreed commonality of issues."
Ms Tekura Moeka'a, Manager for Environmental Policy and Planning at the National Environment Service in the Cook Islands, provided a detailed overview of her nation's environmental compliance processes. "Our environmental compliance department is mandated under our Environment Act 2003," Moeka'a outlined. She elaborated on the role of technology, stating, "NES has embraced our digital efforts, including the development of flex sheets and an online service that allows clients to submit a form anywhere in the world."
Mr John Sitagata, Acting Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Planning and Urban Management Agency (PUMA) in Samoa, provided insights into Samoa’s engagement. He underscored the critical role of multi-level partnerships in Environmental and Social Risk Management. He candidly shared Samoa's challenges, such as resource constraints and escalating development applications, while highlighting successful strategies like the appointment of safeguard officers and SPREP-led training initiatives. Sitagata emphasized early involvement in urban planning and the need for future Sustainable Management Plans, encapsulating his vision of collaborative and well-planned environmental governance. 
In his closing remarks the Director for Environmental Monitoring and Governance Program, Mr Jope Davetanivalu, thanked the World Bank for the relationship established with SPREP to address environmental and social issues in the region.
He also recognised Samoa for being the first country to support the new project concept saying, “I take this opportunity to thank Samoa for being the first country to support this good initiative and we are looking forward to approaching a few other countries to join the initiative so that we have a good base to start this this project together in partnership with the World Bank.”
The side event was not just about discussions; it also aimed to catalyse action. Both SPREP and the World Bank expressed their eagerness to continue collaborating on future projects aimed at strengthening ESRM in the Pacific region. 
For more information on the PLP-ESS and the new proposed capacity strengthening project, please contact Jope Davetanivalu, Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme, [email protected], Ivan Diarra, Pacific Network for Environmental Assessment (PNEA) Technical Officer, [email protected]
To learn more about the ACPMEA 3 project, please visit

The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings are taking place at Taumeasina Island Resort in Samoa this week, from 4-8 September 2023. The meetings are guided by the theme: “SPREP@30th Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific.”  

The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings bring together SPREP's 21 Pacific Island Member countries, 5 Metropolitan Members and partners to discuss strategic issues pertaining to the organisation, and to approve the 2024-2025 work plan. The 21 Pacific Island Member countries and territories of SPREP are: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. The five Metropolitan members of SPREP are: Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America. 

In our efforts to fulfil our vision of ‘a resilient Pacific environment, sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures’, SPREP is extremely grateful to our valued Members, development partners, donors, our CROP family, and stakeholders.  

For more information on the 31SM, please contact: [email protected]